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BBC Autos

The Roundabout Blog

Crossovers: The odd bunch

About the author

Deputy editor of BBC Autos, Jonathan was formerly the editor of The New York Times' Wheels blog. His automotive writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Details, Surface, Intersection and Design Observer. He has an affinity for the Citroën DS and Toyota pickup trucks of the early 1990s.

  • The free-association segment

    Is it a coupe? A wagon? A mechanised urban-getaway appliance? “Call it a crossover,” the wisdom goes, “and be done with it.” At their best, crossovers unshackle designers and engineers from the rigid segmentation that rules their profession. In practise, however, “crossover” has provided aesthetic cover for some very dubious product decisions.

    The latest crossover concept of questionable execution – TopGear.com, in a moment of charity, said it looked “a bit of a mess” – is the Lexus LF-NX, scheduled to be unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show on 10 September. Apropos of that car’s recent web debut, we look at crossover concepts that haven’t quickened pulses so much as raised eyebrows. (Photo: Newspress)

  • Pontiac Aztek Concept (1999)

    By 1999, sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) had effectively killed off the station-wagon segment in North America. Not all consumers, though, were enthralled with SUVs’ pickup-truck underpinnings and flagrant thirst. The Pontiac Aztek Concept was General Motors’ radical response. Introduced at the 1999 Detroit auto show, the car was well-received, but in being distilled for production, the Aztek morphed into a punchline – a role it maintains, despite its death and that of the Pontiac brand. (Photo: General Motors)

  • Pontiac Aztek (production version)

    By 1999, sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) had effectively killed off the station-wagon segment in North America. Not all consumers, though, were enthralled with SUVs’ pickup-truck underpinnings and flagrant thirst. The Pontiac Aztek Concept was General Motors’ radical response. Introduced at the 1999 Detroit auto show, the car was well-received, but in being distilled for production, the Aztek morphed into a punchline – a role it maintains, despite its death and that of the Pontiac brand. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

  • Renault Ondelios Concept (2008)

    The French have long been in the business of defining new vehicle segments – cars like the ubiquitous Citroën 2CV testify to this – so it shouldn’t surprise that the crossover has been lustily adopted by French automakers. Regularly, though, that daring translates to puzzling concept cars. The Renault Ondelios, one of the last designs credited to chief stylist Patrick le Quément before his replacement by Laurens van den Acker, was one such machine, wearing a baleen whale’s mouth and a rear gate befitting a refrigerator. As a concept it cruises on its Gallic quirk, but its kind was never seen in production. (Photo: Renault)

  • Renault Ondelios Concept (2008)

    The French have long been in the business of defining new vehicle segments – cars like the ubiquitous Citroën 2CV testify to this – so it shouldn’t surprise that the crossover has been lustily adopted by French automakers. Regularly, though, that daring translates to puzzling concept cars. The Renault Ondelios, one of the last designs credited to chief stylist Patrick le Quément before his replacement by Laurens van den Acker, was one such machine, wearing a baleen whale’s mouth and a rear gate befitting a refrigerator. As a concept it cruises on its Gallic quirk, but its kind was never seen in production. (Photo: Renault)

  • Nissan Qazana Concept (2009)

    When a concept car moves relatively unchanged from the show floor to the production line, there is typically cause for rejoicing. When the concept is the Nissan Qazana, the response is more muddled. Some attendees of the 2009 Geneva motor show saw a segment-busting four-door that could rival the Mini Cooper in the personality stakes, while others saw a hunchbacked lizard. Nissan ultimately saw what would become the Juke – a global car that would amass 50,000 orders in its first four months of sales, on its way to spawning a high-powered Nismo variant and a higher-powered, one-off R model. (Photo: Newspress)

  • Nissan Qazana Concept (2009)

    When a concept car moves relatively unchanged from the show floor to the production line, there is typically cause for rejoicing. When the concept is the Nissan Qazana, the response is more muddled. Some attendees of the 2009 Geneva motor show saw a segment-busting four-door that could rival the Mini Cooper in the personality stakes, while others saw a hunchbacked lizard. Nissan ultimately saw what would become the Juke – a global car that would amass 50,000 orders in its first four months of sales, on its way to spawning a high-powered Nismo variant and a higher-powered, one-off R model. (Photo: Newspress)

  • Dacia Duster Concept (2009)

    The Duster Concept, the first-ever concept car from the Romanian arm of Fiat Group, resurrected a nameplate worn by a line of inexpensive 4x4s in the 1980s and ‘90s that were sold in Britain. Though the concept started with a smart notch-back shape, with sweeping upward and stabbing downward creases, there was little (or rather, too much) to love about the hind quarters, which appeared bulbous and oddly abbreviated. The eventual Duster production car was dialed back considerably before becoming again the UK’s least expensive 4x4. (Photo: Newspress)

  • Dacia Duster Concept (2009)

    The Duster Concept, the first-ever concept car from the Romanian arm of Fiat Group, resurrected a nameplate worn by a line of inexpensive 4x4s in the 1980s and ‘90s that were sold in Britain. Though the concept started with a smart notch-back shape, with sweeping upward and stabbing downward creases, there was little (or rather, too much) to love about the hind quarters, which appeared bulbous and oddly abbreviated. The eventual Duster production car was dialed back considerably before becoming again the UK’s least expensive 4x4. (Photo: Newspress)

  • Bentley EXP 9F Concept (2012)

    The Volkswagen Group’s ultra-luxury marque is tasked with bringing new customers into the fold, and that means expanding into new vehicle segments. At the 2012 Geneva motor show, Bentley unveiled the EXP 9F, which was built to gauge whether there was desire for such a vehicle. Though the crossover’s swollen fenders and ponderous stance earned few fans among the press corps, there was sufficient customer interest to green-light a model based on the EXP 9F, which is scheduled to reach market in 2016. (Photo: Newspress)

  • Bentley EXP 9F Concept (2012)

    The Volkswagen Group’s ultra-luxury marque is tasked with bringing new customers into the fold, and that means expanding into new vehicle segments. At the 2012 Geneva motor show, Bentley unveiled the EXP 9F, which was built to gauge whether there was desire for such a vehicle. Though the crossover’s swollen fenders and ponderous stance earned few fans among the press corps, there was sufficient customer interest to green-light a model based on the EXP 9F, which is scheduled to reach market in 2016. (Photo: Newspress)

  • Lexus LF-NX Concept (2013)

    Having broken through a protracted design malaise with the LF-LC hybrid sports coupe concept in 2012, Lexus might have been expected to settle into a brand-wide design groove that would terrify its German rivals. Early reactions to the LF-NX Concept, however, would not suggest so. A wash of flares, folds and creases, the LF-NX’s body prompted this summation from TopGear.com: “Messy.” The concept makes its formal debut on 10 September at the Frankfurt motor show. (Photo: Toyota Motor Sales)

  • Lexus LF-NX Concept (2013)

    Having broken through a protracted design malaise with the LF-LC hybrid sports coupe concept in 2012, Lexus might have been expected to settle into a brand-wide design groove that would terrify its German rivals. Early reactions to the LF-NX Concept, however, would not suggest so. A wash of flares, folds and creases, the LF-NX’s body prompted this summation from TopGear.com: “Messy.” The concept makes its formal debut on 10 September at the Frankfurt motor show. (Photo: Toyota Motor Sales)

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